Duque denies delay in procurement of PPEs for health workers amid pandemic

Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 23 2020 12:07 AM

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte confers with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III during a meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) at the Matina Enclaves in Davao City on June 4, 2020. Robinson Niñal, Presidential Photo/file

MANILA - Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Monday said his agency placed an order for personal protective equipment (PPE) for the country's healthcare workers as early as February, denying allegations that there were delays in procurement of said PPEs and other medical gear.

In a televised public briefing, Duque said the country's supply was affected by the global shortage on PPEs due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

"Pero sa totoo lang po, as early as February, tayo po ay nakapaglagay na ng procurement order with the Philippine International Trading Corporation, isa pong attached agency ng DTI at talagang namroblema lang tayo sa supply," he explained

(In fact, as early as February, we have place a procurement order with the Philippine International Trading Corporation, an attached agency of the DTI, and we just had a problem with the supply.)

"At that time marami na pong mga ibang bansa na nauna sa atin dahil nauna rin silang nagkaroon ng COVID-19 cases," Duque added.

(At that time other countries got their supplies first because they also had COVID-19 cases before us.)

Duque also said the PPEs arrived later due to the global shortage in supply.

"Nagsumikap po tayo, nagpunyagi po tayo na makuha ang sapat na bilang ng mga PPEs pero dahil nga po sa shortage, 'yung global shortage, ay naghintay tayo ng matagal bago po tayo makakuha ng personal protective equipment," he explained.

(We tried our best to get enough supply of PPEs but because of the shortage, the global shortage, we had to wait long before we were able to get our supply of personal protective equipment.)

Duque, likewise, said his office will be submitting all documents regarding its procurement process to the Office of the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman earlier said it is expanding its probe on the DOH COVID-19 response to include Duque and other officials. 

Duque has long been under fire for various issues such as accusations of overpriced test kits and equipment. 

However, the Ombudsman also complained that their investigators were given the “runaround by some DOH officials and personnel by referring us from one department or office to another.”

Among issues to be covered in the wider investigation are:

  • delays in the procurement of personal protective equipment and other medical gear for health workers
  • "alleged lapses and irregularities" that caused deaths among health workers
  • delays in the processing and release of benefits for medical workers who died or got severely ill due to COVID-19 
  • the "confusing and delayed reporting" of coronavirus cases and deaths.